Photo provided by Grace College
Photo provided by Grace College
WINONA LAKE – Despite a chunk of students being out of town for Spring Break this week, the Grace College campus will be buzzing as both its men and women’s basketball teams gear up for a historic week of NAIA basketball.

Starting today, both teams will compete in the NAIA tournament as well as celebrate historic firsts for each program. The Lady Lancers received an at-large bid and will be competing in the tournament for the first time in the team’s 47-year history. The Lancers, coming off a strong showing in last year’s tourney, were rewarded for a phenomenal season with a No. 1 seed as well as being named a host school for the first time in school history.

“It’s a very exciting time and will become a memory that won’t be forgotten,” Grace Athletic Director Chad Briscoe said. “It’s a big deal for not only our teams but our campus, our staff and this community. It’s created some unity on this campus that is so great to see.”

On the men’s side, the Lancers have put together a season for the ages. Entering tournament play with a 28-3 record, Grace won both the Crossroads League regular season and tournament title. When the school submitted its bid to host the first three games of the tournament, Grace’s No. 1 seed as well as meeting the criteria of capacity, hospitality and athletic training made the college a shoo-in to host.

Grace will tip off tournament play at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center at 6 p.m. Wednesday night against No. 16 seed Columbia International. Following that contest at 8 p.m. will be No. 8 seed Olivet Nazarene against No. 9 Madonna. The winners of the two games will meet Wednesday night at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to Kansas City where the remainder of the Sweet 16 will be played.

“This is a special group, very successful both on and off the court but that just speaks to the culture that Coach Moore has built as well as the character of these young men,” Briscoe said. “Any one player can lead us on any given night. These guys care about each other so much and it’s evident in everything they do.”

The Lady Lancers (21-9) earned the first bid in team history after the most successful year the program has seen. The team’s 21 wins were a school record and good enough for a third place finish in the Crossroads League. Grace enters the NAIA tourney as a 12 seed and will take on No. 5 seed Pikeville in the second game at Rio Grande (Ohio) starting at 8 p.m. Preceding the Lady Lancer game is a contest between No 4 seed Rio Grande and No. 13 seed Siena Heights. The two winners will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday for a trip to the Sweet 16 in Sioux City.

“Coach Davis has done a tremendous job getting this team to where it’s at. Much like the men’s team these are high character athletes and it’s so good to see them rewarded for their dedication,” Briscoe said. “This is the next step for our program and we’re excited to see what we can build from here.”

The NAIA journey is just the beginning of hoops fever hitting Winona Lake this month. Next week, Grace will play host to the men’s and women’s NCCAA basketball tournaments.